As B. Dolan and Sage Francis bring their latest Edinburgh Fringe Show Tricknology to an end, I felt it was time to revisit this interview with B. Dolan from back in October 2015. Enjoy.
The Curator Podcast – Episode 19: B. Dolan
As I get older I find myself growing to appreciate hip hop more and more. In my teens it didn’t grab me in the same way punk or metal did, and naively, I shunned it. My guest on this episode is rapper B. Dolan and he, alongside Sage Francis, was one of the artists who forced me to realign my expectations of what hip hop is, was and could be.
The truth of the matter is that when your exposure to a particular genre of music comes solely from mainstream sources, it can be quite difficult to find something worthwhile. Like all teenagers, I rebelled, and in doing so I rebelled against the chart and dance music which was common in between my groups of friends in high school and in my neighbourhood. I took solace in the angst of “alternative” music.
A lot of that chart music was hip hop and no, it wasn’t particularly good hip hop. As someone who had deliberately placed themselves outside of mainstream art, I found that when I looked back in to find some shred of meaning, all I could see were empty messages and a sense of disappointment.
That’s not to say that it is impossible for popular music to carry a message. Now that I’m older I can see such a view is quite patently nonsense, but in the naivety of youth I certainly felt that.
So in my teens, my flirtation and subsequent rejection of hip hop was the result of two things:
A) to me, the stuff that was on the radio or on MTV had nothing to say to me. I was looking for something political, something which raged and had teeth. 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Nelly and the other hip hop that circulated when those artists were at their peak, was empty to me.
B) I had no one to guide me. It was easy to find people who could introduce me to new rock music. Literally no one I knew had any inkling of hip hop beyond whatever was coming out of the radio that week.
For many years I lived my life ignoring hip hop, thinking that it was all violence and misogyny.
About ten years ago that changed. A friend opened me up to “underground” hip hop, with Sage Francis at the head it.
At the risk of coming across like a snob, I’ve always found the entry point for hip hop music to be quite high. Perhaps it’s because I’m a snotty punk kid at heart – those short, sharp stabs of music are certainly designed to make you think, but the message is fleeting, it’s difficult to hold onto before you’re off onto the next song. A hip hop record is more layered and more complex, it demands the full investment of your time. It requires repeated listens and time to unfold in your head.
But I appreciate them. I enjoy spending time with an album, deciphering lyrics and meanings, getting underneath the complexity of the music and living inside it.
Prior to this interview it had been five years since I last saw B. Dolan play. Weirdly it was five years to the exact day, in the exact same venue. In that particular instance he was supporting Sage Francis, an artist who also happened to be responsible for introducing me to B. Dolan on Twitter some years before.
Fallen House, Sunken City, which bizarrely only came out five years ago but it somehow feels longer, is an album which pulled me out of a musical slump I’d fallen into. It’s an awesome record, and one of my favourites. Although I do think his new one, Kill the Wolf, might usurp that.
- Getting into fights at the Westmoreland service station
- A shout out to Passion of the Weiss
- Obession with music
- An almost encyclopedic knowledge of hip hop
- A little bit of Prince
- Recording and producing ‘Kill the Wolf’
- B. Dolan’s evolution as a songwriter
B. Dolan is a super nice guy, and to hear him close with The Hunter at the show later that night was a pretty huge deal for me. Also, Buddy Peace absolutely killed it. To see an MC and a DJ work together to create such a tight live show was amazing. Honestly if you get a chance, you should see him.
I hope you enjoy the episode.
Intro: Voodoo Puppets – Electric Chair Blues (used under CC licence, you can check it out here).
Outro: Blue Dot Sessions – Inessential